The League

Dave Goldberg
Sports Reporter

Dave Goldberg

Covered the NFL for the AP for 25 years and now is a senior NFL writer for Fanhouse.com

Still tough

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The New England Patriots' "dynasty'' -- if that's what you call it -- is over.

But it doesn't mean the Patriots won't remain among the better teams in the NFL for the foreseeable future, as long as Tom Brady remains efficient and probably as long as the Kraft family owns the team.

It's not as if New England has gone away.

It's relative, of course. For a lot of franchises, including Dan Snyder's Washington bunch, leading your division after 12 games with a 7-5 record would be just fine. But it's not for a team that won Super Bowls after the 2001, 2002 and 2004 seasons and in 2007 became the first NFL team ever to finish a season 16-0. Even the first two-game losing streak since 2006 rankles.

At some level, the Patriots find it hard to be "rebuilding,'' which is what they are doing after losing five defensive starters in the offseason. When Bill Belichick traded Richard Seymour, to Oakland for a 2011 first-round draft pick, he seemed to be acknowledging that. Seymour was one of the best defensive linemen in the league but had been hurt a lot in the last three seasons and seemed to be on the decline, so Belichick mortgaged the present for the future.

Now the older guys are complaining that the younger guys don't get it yet.

"When things don't go your way, you have to fight back,'' Tom Brady said after the 22-21 loss Sunday in Miami, where the Patriots blew a 14-0 lead. "That's a challenge for all of us. I think at times we do, and at times I don't think we fight very hard.''

Maybe it's because New England has been so used to winning big that it's not used to winning small -- just assuming that in a close game, things will go its way. Even Brady isn't immune -- he threw a bad interception the end zone in Sunday's loss, forcing a ball into coverage. And once again, Belichick's fourth-down strategy backfired -- the Pats certainly could have used the three points they lost when he chose to go for it (again) on fourth down from the Miami six and failed.

The Patriots haven't crashed. But they simply are just another one of the 12 or 14 teams a notch below the top level contending for playoff spots. That's not a role they're used to. They won't plummet _ most "dynasties'' don't. But they should look at the Pittsburgh Steelers after their run of four Super Bowl victories in six seasons ended 30 years ago _ for the final 12 years of Chuck Noll's coaching tenure, they were 91-89 in the regular season, a perfectly average team. Mediocre if you will.

"Average'' may not be enough in New England. Mediocre certainly isn't. They may have to get used to it.

By Dave Goldberg  |  December 7, 2009; 12:15 PM ET  | Category:  New England Patriots Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Comments

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No one seems to be commenting on the mundane play-calling that has marked this current losing streak. Granted the defensive secondary is still a work in progress, the offense has failed to convert easy scoring opportunities that would have made the difference because of poor choice of plays. They need to re-hire Charlie Weis.

Posted by: lrubin2 | December 7, 2009 2:08 PM

"The Patriots haven't crashed."

What a joke!

They have not won a SINGLE game against a team with a winning record. They have not won a SINGLE game in an opponent's stadium.

Posted by: frantaylor | December 8, 2009 9:35 AM

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